More investment in the health of adolescents

01.02.2017 12:23



Survey data for Bulgaria confirms the global trends, but alerts of the need to strengthen national efforts to improve health and health behavior of adolescents

Today were presented the results of the international study "Health Behaviour in School-aged Children – HBSC 2013/2014" (

The press conference was attended by Michail Okoliyski (representative of WHO in Bulgaria), Martin Weber (representative of WHO Regional Office for Europe), Maria Jesus Conde (UNICEF Representative in Bulgaria).

The study provides data on health and health behavior of adolescents from 43 countries from Europe, USA and Canada. It outlines general trends and needs of the adolescents that require targeted measures and investment in all areas - health, education, social policy, and etc., to ensure the full development of their potential.

Survey data for Bulgaria confirms the global trends, but alerts of the need to strengthen national efforts to improve health and health behavior of adolescents. Successful strategies must be based on data, broad partnerships between family, young people, institutions and society taking into account the specific needs of young people and empowering them to make healthy choices and decisions in their lives.

The study in Bulgaria was conducted among 4,796 students from Grades 5, 7 and 9, a total of 311 class groups in 163 schools.

Children surveyed reported that:

:: The most common complaints occurring daily or more than once a week are: nervousness (36.8%) and irritability or being in a bad mood (30.9%),
:: The most often consumed foods on a daily basis by Bulgarian adolescents are: sweet stuff (43.8%); followed by vegetables (41.1%), fruit (36.7%) and non-alcoholic beverages containing sugar (34.5%). Bulgarian adolescents are ranked among the first in the cross-national comparison of consumption of sweet foods and non-alcoholic beverages containing sugar.
:: About one quarter of the boys (23.5%) and 13% of the girls are overweight. Both overweight and obesity are more common with boys. The overall daily physical activity is on the decrease with age, both with girls and boys, the more marked drop being: with girls at the age of 11 to 13 and with boys at the age of 13 to 15.
:: Bulgarian adolescents rank among the first in terms of weekly use of alcohol and cigarettes in the cross-national comparison. Similar data is for Malta, Italy, Croatia, and Hungary. Lowest is the share of children in Scandinavian countries.
:: Girls smoke more often than boys: 30% of the 15-year-old girls smoke at least once a week in comparison to 21% of the boys at that age. This puts Bulgaria in second place after Greenland.
:: Data for the 15-year-old students indicate that 77% have never tried smoking cannabis. ; Bulgarian adolescents, however, are at the top of the rankings I terms of ‘frequency of use’ in the cross-national comparison.  
:: 40% of the 15-year-old boys report that they have had sexual contacts as opposed to 21% of the girls at this age. Regarding the girls, this proportion is much lower than the proportion in countries such as Hungary, Denmark, Scotland, Finland, Sweden, and Czech Republic. At the same time, an average 66% share (56% of girls and 66% of boys) that they used a condom during their last sexual intercourse. The average age of the first sexual contact for those who have experienced one is 14 years. Almost one third of the students (29%) claim that they have experienced their first sexual contact at the age of 13 or earlier.
:: Bulgarian students place the country among the top ten in terms of ‘school bullying’. Boys are more often the victims (12-20% in the different age groups) compared to girls (10-17% in the different age groups). The bullies are more often boys too – 15% of the 11-year-olds, 17% of the 13-year-olds and 18% of the 15-year-olds. At the same time the smallest share of children in Bulgaria (11, 13 and 15 years old) believe that their classmates are kind and helpful.

This international survey has been conducted already for 33 years in collaboration with the World Health Organization. Currently there are 43 participating countries from Europe, Canada and USA in HBSC. Bulgaria is included for the first time in the survey in 2005/2006. The last survey (2013/2014) was conducted by a team from the Institute for Population and Human Academy, BAS and Research Center "Health Psychology" in partnership with UNICEF in Bulgaria.

About UNICEF  
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere. For more information about UNICEF and its work visit:

For more information:
Jacklin Tzocheva, Communication Officer, UNICEF Bulgaria
Tel.: +359 2 / 96 96 208, E-mail:  

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